Non-profit starts visiting school sites to house homeless students

After the number of homeless students in San Francisco's public schools has more than doubled in the last decade to over 2,000, one nonprofit has formed a partnership with the school district to directly respond to those in need through campus visits.

School social workers and teachers now have a hotline to call when learning a student is homeless or facing eviction. Within three days, case managers with the Hamilton Family Center, a nonprofit providing emergency shelter and services for homeless families, will arrive at the San Francisco Unified School District campus to meet with the family in need.

The effort comes as the population of homeless students nationwide has dramatically increased, thrusting the issue into the forefront. In San Francisco, the population has jumped to 2,094 this year from 844 in the 2004-05 school year.

“That is absolutely not acceptable,” Jeff Kositsky, executive director of the Hamilton Family Center, said during Tuesday's Board of Education meeting when the new partnership was approved. “The school district can be part of the solution.”

The nonprofit's newly launched school program got a boost Thursday when Google announced a $2 million gift for homeless services, of which $1 million was for Hamilton Family Center. Kositsky said the money will go toward hiring three additional case managers to visit the schools and to fund eviction prevention services for 50 families, as well as the housing of 50 homeless families using rent subsidies.

“Of course we can't help every family that we visit. So we are helping to educate the school staff on what other resources are available,” Kositsky said.

Mayor Ed Lee, who held a news conference to announce the gift, said, “These public-private partnerships are more and more becoming a part of sustained abilities to help government, to help social-service agencies to help our community-based agencies succeed in their mission. That mission continues to be: Everyone who lives here can get support.”

The mayor has faced criticism for favoring technology companies and not doing enough to alleviate the tech industry's impacts on rising rents and an increase in evictions. One-bedroom rents have increased by 13.5 percent this year, according to a new report by real estate marketplace Zumper. The average one bedroom rent is currently $3,285.

Marianna Estrada, a case manager with Hamilton, said that finding housing for the families it serves, at least in The City, is very challenging.

“I always suggest they ask friends or families. Sometimes even co-workers,” Estrada said. “In San Francisco, it's very difficult and the ones that they are finding are mainly in-laws or family homes in which they are renting out a master bedroom.”

Larkin Street Youth Services will receive $500,000 from Google for college and career preparation programs, and $500,000 was given to HandUp, an online platform where people can donate directly to low-income people who list their needs. For one woman, it helped her pay for dentures.

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